As expected, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have unveiled a proposal that will suspend increases in fuel economy put forth by the Obama administration, and take away California's ability regulate vehicle emissions.
The new proposal is called the "Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule." Under the new proposal, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) would be capped at the 2020 level of 37 mpg through 2025. Under the rules that were created during the Obama administration, automakers would need to have a fleet average of 54 mpg in 2026. The proposal would also remove Calfornia's ability to set their own emissions state based on a 1975 federal law that prohibits states from setting their own greenhouse gas limits. It needs to be noted that two federal judges have rejected this argument when it was brought to court.
"EPA is proposing to withdraw the waiver granted to California in 2013 for the GHG [Greenhouse Gas] and ZEV [Zero Emissions Vehicles] requirements of its Advanced Clean Cars program," the proposal states.
"In short, the agencies propose to maintain one national standard -- a standard that is set exclusively by the Federal government."
What are the benefits to this new proposal? The one that has been getting the most headlines is reduced fatalities and crashes. If you're scratching your head as to how this makes sense, here is what the proposal argues.
- People who buy fuel-efficient vehicle will drive more, increasing the odds that they will get into a crash.
- Fuel-efficient vehicles will be more expensive, thus slowing down the rate people buy new cars with advanced safety features.
- Fuel-efficient vehicles tend to be lighter, thus are less capable of withstanding a crash.
The proposal claims that this will prevent 12,700 fatalities and many more injuries on American roads.
There has been a lot of disagreement on this part, especially on the weight part. While it is true that a heavier vehicle won't sustain as much damage as lighter vehicle, experts have realized that the size of vehicle is more important to overall safety. Plus, the New York Times points out this point only accounts for one percent of the estimated fatalities in the proposal.
Other benefits include reduced costs for new vehicles - the proposal says the stricter emission rules add about an average of $2,430 to the price of new vehicles.
“We think we can have a win-win, if we lock in at 2020 levels. We’re not imposing undue costs on manufacturers. We’re not imposing undue costs on consumers who want affordable vehicles. And therefore we think as a result of these standards we will be able to have our cake and eat it too,” said Bill Wehrum, the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation on a call today.
Reactions to this are very mixed.
“I applaud the Trump administration for proposing new standards for cars and trucks. Unless the Obama administration’s punishing standards are changed, consumer choice will be limited and the cost of vehicles will skyrocket,” said Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
"Automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivize advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs, and the environment," said the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and and the Association of Global Automakers in a statement.
"The administration's effort to roll back these standards is a denial of basic science and a denial of American automakers' engineering capabilities and ingenuity," said John M. DeCicco, research professor at the University of Michigan Energy Institute.
"This was a predictable move, as the current administration has been working hard to dismantle Obama-era regulations across the board. And while there's little demand today for smaller, more-efficient or electrified vehicles in the U.S., as gas prices remain low, these lower fuel economy targets proposed by the administration will likely spark an unwanted war between Washington and the California Air Resources Board. While few stakeholders were happy with the tough targets in the current regulations, unraveling those standards will likely be even more painful," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader.
Unsurprisingly, California is not pleased by this new proposal. The state along with 18 others and the District of Columbia have announced they would challenge the proposal in court.
“The Trump Administration has launched a brazen attack, no matter how it is cloaked, on our nation’s Clean Car Standards,” said Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general.
California “will use every legal tool at its disposal to defend today’s national standards and reaffirm the facts and science behind them.”
California Governor Jerry Brown was more blunt in his reaction to this,
"California will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible.”
A legal fight could mean a lot of headaches for automakers as it might result in two different emission standards they would have to meet.
"With today's release of the Administration's proposals, it's time for substantive negotiations to begin. We urge California and the federal government to find a common sense solution that sets continued increases in vehicle efficiency standards while also meeting the needs of America's drivers," said the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and and the Association of Global Automakers.
The next step is giving the public 60 days to comment on this proposal.
U.S. EPA and DOT Propose Fuel Economy Standards for MY 2021-2026 Vehicles
WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a notice of proposed rulemaking, the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks (SAFE Vehicles Rule), to correct the national automobile fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards to give the American people greater access to safer, more affordable vehicles that are cleaner for the environment.
The SAFE Vehicles Rule is the next generation of the Congressionally mandated Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards. This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is the first formal step in setting the 2021-2026 Model Year (MY) standards that must be achieved by each automaker for its car and light-duty truck fleet.
In today’s proposal, EPA and NHTSA are seeking public comment on a wide range of regulatory options, including a preferred alternative that locks in MY 2020 standards through 2026, providing a much-needed time-out from further, costly increases. The agencies’ preferred alternative reflects a balance of safety, economics, technology, fuel conservation, and pollution reduction. It is anticipated to prevent thousands of on-road fatalities and injuries as compared to the standards set forth in the 2012 final rule. The joint proposal initiates a process to establish a new 50-state fuel economy and tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions standard for passenger cars and light trucks covering MY 2021 through 2026.
“We are delivering on President Trump’s promise to the American public that his administration would address and fix the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Our proposal aims to strike the right regulatory balance based on the most recent information and create a 50-state solution that will enable more Americans to afford newer, safer vehicles that pollute less. More realistic standards can save lives while continuing to improve the environment. We value the public’s input as we engage in this process in an open, transparent manner.”
“There are compelling reasons for a new rulemaking on fuel economy standards for 2021-2026,” said Secretary Elaine L. Chao. “More realistic standards will promote a healthy economy by bringing newer, safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles to U.S. roads and we look forward to receiving input from the public.”
The current standards have been a factor in the rising cost of new automobiles to an average of $35,000 or more—out of reach for many American families. Indeed, compared to the preferred alternative in the proposal, keeping in place the standards finalized in 2012 would add $2,340 to the cost of owning a new car, and impose more than $500 billion in societal costs on the U.S. economy over the next 50 years.
Additionally, a 2018 government study by NHTSA shows new model year vehicles are safer, resulting in fewer deaths and injuries when involved in accidents, as compared to older models. Therefore, the Administration is focused on correcting the current standards that restrict the American people from being able to afford newer vehicles with more advanced safety features, better fuel economy, and associated environmental benefits.
On April 2, 2018, EPA issued the Mid-Term Evaluation Final Determination which found that the MY 2022-2025 GHG standards are not appropriate and should be revised. For more than a year, the agencies worked together to extensively analyze current automotive and fuel technologies, reviewed economic conditions and projections, and consulted with other federal agency partners to ensure the most reliable and accurate analysis possible.
EPA and NHTSA are seeking public feedback to ensure that all potential impacts concerning today’s proposal are fully considered and hope to issue a final rule this winter.
The public will have 60 days to provide feedback once published at the Federal Register